From Mrs Tiggy-Winkle to Sonic, there’s few wild animals that capture the imagination and heart more than the prickly hedgehog. Despite being very recognisable, there’s very little research on their presence in Ireland and there are many human processes that threaten their numbers and habitats.
For this week’s episode Aislinn Kelly met veterinary nurse Bev Truss to learn about these curious creatures and find out what we can do to help protect their population.
What makes the hedgehog so special?
- Hedgehogs mostly eat insects such as beetles and caterpillars, however they are opportunistic eaters and will also take eggs, frogs and even pet food.
- They hibernate and need to build up enough white fat to get them through the winter months. They emerge from hibernation in March or April.
- Hedgehogs do not pair bond and the male plays no role in the rearing of the young.
- Hedgehogs are not native to Ireland and it is believed they were introduced to our shores in the 12th century. Despite not being native, they aren’t classed as invasive species and they are considered naturalised to our environment.
- Hedgehogs can be found all around Ireland except in wetlands and mountainous regions.
- They love habitats with biodiversity, with long grass, hedgerows, bushes and trees providing them with all the food and shelter they need.
- Hedgehogs are solitary and nocturnal and are mostly seen in the dark looking for food.
How can I help the hedgehog?
- Make your garden a hedgehog haven by leaving areas of the garden wild, allowing for piles of leaves, logs or compost. This allows hedgehogs to nest and also provides home for insects that they can feed on.
- Cover holes in your garden- manholes and uncovered drains are death traps for hedgehogs.
- Have an exit route at the side of ponds and cattegrids to allow hedgehogs to escape if they fall in .
- Do not litter and pick up any tins, plastic bags, binders from drink cans or yoghurt pots you see- these are a real hazard to hedgehogs.
- Avoid slug pellets and pesticides as they can poison hedgehogs.
- Hedgehogs love cat food- Bev recommends dry cat food as it can improve their dental hygiene.
- Keep a water dish filled in your garden and wash regularly with warm soapy water to prevent spreading disease.
Record your sightings of the hedgehog and learn more about their presence in Ireland at The Irish Hedgehog Survey.
Learn how to build a hedgehog home in your garden with old bricks!